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Friday, May 6, 2011

"Light" Chapter 9: Mother

Just a note for the reader. You might notice a few little inconsistencies here and there as the plot develops. That is because I'm making this up as I go along, quite literally! For instance, Greg is getting a little edgier, as is his language. I am actually editing a few minor things from earlier chapters when better ideas come to me later on. I hope you can forgive me if this creates any problems for you as a reader.

There is a web that is woven through our lives, beyond this space and time, and we are rarely privy to knowing much about it. The truth is, almost nobody knows much about it. Note I did write “almost nobody”. It was the “almost nobodies” that I was about to find out about. The weaver has its ways, and those ways do not always correspond to the tiny little agendas that we micro-cosmic organisms – we human beings – have.

It’s a little strange. I sit and write this ten years later, like a God sitting high above the person that I was before I became invisible. Transparent. As I look down from on high, having been through all that Hell, and not an inconsiderable amount of Heaven, I can barely recognize that person. Is that individual really the me that I once was? Before the forgetting?

All I know is that I have little time left, and that I am fading. I need to write before its too late.

I write, and he speaks through me. The one that I used to be. The one that I am, but am not. I can only laugh now.

I was packing it. Big time. I just couldn’t get to sleep that night. All I could think about was Amanda, and how she was going to shaft me. I was the guy. The big Aussie guy. I was the one who was supposed to be doing all the shafting, pardon the pun.

To tell the truth, I hadn’t done much shafting at all up till that point. Not that I want to give any secrets away. No girlfriends, and barely a friend-girl. Women, who were they? What were they? I lay there in the darkness, a soft terror filling my soul.

That was it. I would send her a message.

Hey you. Sorry, can’t make it. Assignment way overdue. War in Africa has wasted my silver stocks. Feeling real bad. Have a nice time. Greg.

That sounded good. Made me feel like one of those big shot Economics students from Sydney who drove to lectures in BMWs. Sharp, smart, aloof and cold as ice.

The tight feeling in my stomach wouldn’t go away. Not even as I fell asleep.

The dream gripped me like death. She was there, just like she was always there. My mother was lying before me, bedridden, sick, twisted, like some half crazed animal writhing in its pathetic pain. I knew that she was dying. Her eyes were closed, dark, but the words came forth, hissed from behind angry, accusing, lips.

“It’s you. It‘s you who killed me.”

I jerked awake, shot upright, a chilly blackness reaching into me like the cold, dark hand of death itself.

“What the fuck?”

There was no answer. Nothing but the night, and a silence that would not speak. I lifted my unseen hands to my face and began to sob.

Friday. The day. And I hadn’t slept a wink. I paced up and down the footpath above the counseling service like a man waiting for his wife to give birth. This was going to be a painful delivery.

“Fuck it.”

I ran, stumbled down the stairway, not daring to look at my face in the window. I knew I looked like shit, like a stray dog, its bony body consuming its own flesh in a desperate attempt to remain alive.

I pushed through the door and looked around. The last person I wanted to see was Doctor Geoff I’m-so-fucking-serene Masters. Yeah. I needed to talk to a shrink. Bad. I didn’t need Morpheus on sedatives. But right then I would gladly have opted for a fistful of blue pills and insertion back into the Matrix. Forever.

Thankfully there was just a cute young thing behind the desk, about my age. and suitably indifferent to my existence She thrust a form in my face, giving me a half-dirty look as she caught me looking down her top (there are some advantages to being very tall, you know). I pretended I was looking down. A bit. Damn it, she got me.

But it was worth it.

I wandered over to the too-soft sofa style chairs, crashed down and began to write my details on the form. That was when Frank Main walked in. Frank was an economics student well known to everyone at Edwards Hall. There was something really weird about him. When you talked to him he just kind of stared back, droning out barely related segments of ideas, a considerable portion of which seemed designed to optimally offend the listener. After getting his form he headed over my way. I didn’t want to speak to him.

“I’m here for the tutoring service,” he said without bothering to look at me.

Sure he was. Like social retards wander into the counseling service looking for tips on how to fill out a study timetable.

“Yeah, me too.” I didn’t look up.

I handed in the form and waited. Five minutes passed before the cute young thing called me over and told me to step into the counseling room.

“Good luck with that study advice,” Frank said as I passed his chair, looking at me with dry, empty eyes.

I walked into the small room. It looked like an interrogation room from a cop show. There was a desk and chair, and another rather mundane looking but nonetheless comfy looking thing that was half way between being a chair and a sofa. I sat down in it.

My leg kept bouncing up and down of its own volition. The same thought kept rolling through my mind. Please. Please not Masters. Please. No. Not him. Please.

When Claudia Stamos walked in, she must have thought I was having an orgasm, my sigh was that pronounced. The enlightened one would not speak today.

Claudia was an attractive woman of about thirty, wearing a rather tight collared shirt covering strongish shoulders, and the rest in proportion. Later I found out she was studying for a PhD and working a part-time job at the counseling service. If I said I would have gladly given her another job right then and there, you’d probably think I was a deviant. So I won’t say it.

She smiled at me. There was something about her that made me relax. She seemed soft, feminine yet confident. I guess it was the age difference. I didn’t feel like there was any need to worry about any sexual stuff. Yeah, she was somewhat hot. But she was older, after all.

The small talk passed. “So, Greg, what brings you here today?”

I searched my mind for something to say, something that would make sense, but not make me sound like the basket case that I really was. “I think I’ve got a problem.”

“What kind of problem?”

“I dunno. I’m confused about things.”

“What kind of things?”

Well, there was the small matter of strange dreams and visions, hearing invisible babies crying in the night, seeing strange lights around people and peering into their souls. But somehow it didn't feel right to mention the freaky stuff.

It just came out.“Girls. I don’t understand them. I don’t know anything about them actually. I think there’s something wrong with me.”

I was surprised to find my hands on my face, trying hard to suppress tears that were welling up inside me. This was not what I had planned. What made it worse was that Claudia was silent. What was she trying to do? Let be bawl right there in front of her? Before a woman?

I regained my composure, but the helpless, sad feeling was still there, like an annoying kid that won’t leave you alone. “Do you think there’s something wrong with me?” I finally said.

“Let’s not think of it that way. Maybe there’s something that you need to understand better.”

I sighed, and some of the weight lifted from me.

“How is your relationship with you mother?”

My breath caught inside me. For a moment the dark dream tried to drive its way into my mind. I pushed it away.

“I dunno. We don’t get on that well.” I told her about my mother’s drinking. I even told her about the feeling I had sometimes when around her, like there was a terrible darkness trying to engulf me.

“Did your mother ever hug you?”

“No. Not that I can remember. Is that normal?”

She shook her head. “No. That’s not normal.”

I walked away from the Newcastle University Counseling Service still feeling kind of lost, but somehow much lighter. Finally I had told someone about my mother. It was the first time.

I felt so good I didn’t even send that message to Amanda. What the hell. What was the worst thing that could happen? She might hate me like all the other girls in my miserable personal history. That couldn’t be that bad.

Could it?


  1. Hi Marcus, I like your multi-dimensional approach. However, I think when you're dealing with such scenarios in fiction, it's important to balance the other-worldliness with a strong sense of setting to keep the story grounded. I don't get that here. I want to see more of the landscape, details of interiors, a feeling of place, something unique so that I'll know I'm in Australia. Just a thought. Rob

  2. As a matter of interest, Rob, did you read the whole chapter, or just the beginning and end? The beginning is designed to restablish connection with the main character in his future self. This future character is deliberately "etheric", hovering over the scene. I hadn't mentioned "him" since the first chapter, so I thought it a good idea to remind the reader who is really telling the story. I think there's a fair bit of description in the middle part, of the counseling room, the people etc., which is the bulk of the chapter. Thanks for the feedback, anyway.

  3. I haven't read the first eight chapters so I don't how you established the setting earlier in the story. I guess i'm being influence right now by Stieg Larsson's trilogy. I'm finishing The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest nd fascinated not only by the main character, Salander, but also the strong sense of setting in Stockholm and elsewhere in Sweden--a country I've never visited.

  4. Oh, I see how that would influence your perception. This is really quite a different kind of novel from Larson (I haven't read him, BTW). But I do take your point. The story does need grounding in the mundane. I hadn't focused so much on location, as psyche - inner worlds. The book "Limitless", which I am reading at the moment, is more like "Light". There's actually relatively little physical description in Limitless. It's more the mind that is the focus, like my novel. Having said that, I'll address the physical dimension more in coming chapters.